Liberty Global TV Subscribers Fall in First Quarter

Associated Press
Liberty Global chairman John Malone

John Malone's international cable operator, led by CEO Mike Fries, reported "higher video losses due to increased competition in certain markets."

John Malone's Liberty Global posted a widened first-quarter loss.

The company's quarterly loss of $537.5 million, or 61 cents per share, compares to a loss of $78.8 million, or 10 cents per share, in the year-ago period. The year-ago figure had been boosted by a $340 million gain on the sale of channels business Chellomedia to AMC Networks.

First-quarter revenue fell to $4.52 billion from $5.53 billion. On an adjusted basis, revenue was up 3 percent.

Liberty Global recorded revenue generating units (RGUs) additions of 68,000, excluding acquisitions, amid higher video subscriber losses of 169,000, compared with 71,000 in the year-ago period. It cited "underperformance in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland" as key drivers.

As of March 31, Liberty Global provided 56.0 million subscription services to 27.3 million unique customers. These services consisted of 24.2 million video, 17.4 million broadband and 14.4 million telephony subscriptions.

"Although our first-quarter subscriber additions were impacted by higher video losses due to increased competition in certain markets and other factors, consumer appetite for our next-generation services remained strong with 150,000 new broadband subscribers," said Fries. "Price increases across our footprint contributed to a 5 percent average revenue per user increase and provide a foundation for further growth in 2015. We remain in a strong competitive position with our market-leading broadband speeds and our advanced video platforms and expect to add over 1 million net new RGUs this year."

Following shareholder approval in late February, "we are pleased to announce that we expect our [Liberty Global Latin America] tracking stock to begin trading in early July, creating greater choice for our shareholders," Fries added.

Speaking on the earnings conference call on Friday, Fries said second-quarter subscriber trends are off to a good start. He said the first-quarter trends were due to various expected factors, reiterating his confidence in the company's full-year projections.

Asked about the EU's plans to create a single digital market, Fries said it should mean a "slightly" lighter regulatory touch. He reiterated recent comments that European regulation of the cable industry has been "much more sensible, much more economically driven" than in the U.S. "We feel very lucky at this point to be in this marketplace," he said.

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